As parents, we certainly care about what our kids put in their mouths and of course we always try to instill healthy eating habits, but are we aware of how damaging sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and ever fruit juices can be to our kid’s teeth and gums? It’s easy to toe the everything in moderation line when we’re talking about Halloween candy blowout or Christmas cookie overload, but we also need to educate our kids to the dangers of gulping down those sugary slurry sports drinks, sodas, or energy elixirs.
For the first time, researchers have been able to demonstrate that lifelong damage is caused by acidity to the teeth within the first 30 seconds of acid attack.
Researchers say drinks high in acidity combined with night-time tooth grinding and reflux can cause major, irreversible damage to young people’s teeth.
Soda, Sports Drinks, & Fruit Juices: The Dental Health Triple Threat?
“Dental erosion is an issue of growing concern in developed countries, and it is often only detected clinically after extensive tooth wear has occurred,” says Dr Sarbin Ranjitkar, corresponding author of a paper on tooth enamel erosion published in the Journal of Dentistry.
Dr Ranjitkar is a member of the University’s Craniofacial Biology Research Group, which is part of the Centre for Orofacial Research and Learning. The research was conducted by School of Dentistry Honours student Chelsea Mann.
“Such erosion can lead to a lifetime of compromised dental health that may require complex and extensive rehabilitation – but it is also preventable with minimal intervention,” Dr Ranjitkar says.
Speaking during the Australian Dental Association’s Dental Health Week (4-10 August), Dr Ranjitkar says the number of cases of tooth erosion from the consumption of acidic beverages is on the rise in children and young adults.
“Often, children and adolescents grind their teeth at night, and they can have undiagnosed regurgitation or reflux, which brings with it acidity from the stomach.”
“Combined with drinks high in acidity, this creates a triple threat to young people’s teeth which can cause long-term damage to teeth,” he says.
Dr Ranjitkar says parents should minimize consumption of any kind of soft drinks, sports drink, fruit juice or acidic foods to their children.
“Our research has shown that permanent damage to the tooth enamel will occur within the first 30 seconds of high acidity coming into contact with the teeth. This is an important finding and it suggests that such drinks are best avoided.
“If high acidity drinks are consumed, it is not simply a matter of having a child clean their teeth an hour or 30 minutes later and hoping they’ll be okay – the damage is already done,” he says.
Dr Ranjitkar suggests children consume fresh fruit instead of drinking fruit juice.
“Although fresh fruit is naturally acidic, it is a healthier option to fruit juice, which can have additional food acids in it. The important thing to appreciate is that there is a balance between acids and host protection in a healthy mouth. Once that balance is shifted in favour of the acids, regardless of the type of acid, teeth become damaged,” he says.
Key Takeaways: Drink Choices For Optimal Dental Health
While research into how these sugary sports drinks, sodas, and fruit juices negatively impact the dental health of our kids will continue, here are a few takeaways we can glean from this study.
– Consumption of high acidity drinks can cause permanent damage to teeth within the first 30 seconds.
– Whole fruit is better than fruit juice.
– Brushing after consuming high acidity drinks doesn’t necessarily help – the damage is effectively done.
– Water trumps all.
This “triple threat” to kids dental health research applies to kids and parents alike, whether we’re in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada…or anywhere else in the developed world.
And when (not if) our kids think they have it so rough drinking plain old water, let them know how in many parts of the world drinking water is not just a matter of turning on the tap.
Credit: The University of Adelaide